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European Citizenship: Awareness growing about EU-guaranteed rights but people want to know more

Commission Européenne - IP/13/119   19/02/2013

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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 19 February 2013

European Citizenship: Awareness growing about EU-guaranteed rights but people want to know more

20 years after the birth of EU citizenship Europeans are broadly aware of their rights, but do not always know what these entail, according to a new Eurobarometer survey published by the European Commission today. 81% of respondents to the survey know that they are EU citizens on top of their own nationality (see Annex). However, only 36% feel well informed about the rights that EU citizenship entails. Europeans are most familiar with their rights to free movement (88%) and to petition EU institutions (89%). Meanwhile two-thirds (67%) consider that free movement of people within the EU brings economic benefits to their country.

The survey comes as the European Parliament and the European Commission hold a joint hearing today to discuss Europeans’ rights. The discussions will notably provide inspiration for the Commission's next EU Citizenship Report, which aims to tackle obstacles encountered by EU citizens when exercising their rights. The report – due on 8 May – will set out a series of initiatives to help make these rights a reality, as part of the 2013 European Year of Citizens. It also follows up on the 25 actions announced in the First EU Citizenship Report in 2010 (see IP/10/1390 and MEMO/10/525) and looks at which obstacles for EU citizens have been dismantled over the past three years.

Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU’s Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship said: "Europeans value their rights as EU citizens and are more aware of them than ever before. Yet, there is still more we can do to help citizens use their rights and to better engage people in the European Union’s decision-making. I will participate in Citizens' dialogues all over the Union throughout this year which is the European Year of Citizens. I want to listen to citizens' concerns and ideas about their rights. I want to hear how we can improve the situation and how citizens see the future of Europe. Europe cannot be built without the direct input of Europeans. Therefore, we are profoundly changing the way European policies are made to give citizens a direct say.”

The Eurobarometer survey on European Union citizenship asked Europeans about their status and rights as citizens of the EU. Overall, respondents were aware of most of their EU citizenship rights, including petitioning the EU institutions (89%), free movement (88%), non-discrimination on basis of nationality (82%), consular protection (79%) and participating in a Citizens’ Initiative (73%). Over a third of respondents (36%) felt well informed about these rights – this is up by 5 percentage points compared to 2007. However, just 24% consider themselves well informed about what to do if their EU rights are not respected.

In terms of free movement rights, an absolute majority in all 27 EU member states believe that this brings economic benefits to their country.

Background

Thanks to EU citizenship – which was introduced by the Maastricht Treaty in 1993 and celebrates its 20th birthday this year – all nationals of the EU Member States have a set of additional rights as EU citizens. These include the right to move and live freely in the EU, to vote and stand in local and European elections in the EU country they live in, the right to consular protection abroad under the same conditions as nationals when their own country is not represented and the right to petition the European Parliament, apply to the European Ombudsman and address the EU institutions.

There are many rights that derive from European citizenship – but people are not always aware of them. The European Year of Citizens is about explaining these rights and making sure people are aware of them and do not face any obstacles in exercising them (see IP/13/2).

The European Commission is working to remove obstacles that EU citizens still face in their daily lives: the EU Citizenship Report 2010 (see IP/10/1390 and MEMO/10/525) outlined 25 concrete actions to empower EU citizens exercising their right to free movement in the EU. During the European Year of Citizens in 2013, the Commission will publish a second EU Citizenship Report, which will take stock of the 25 actions proposed in 2010 and will present further key actions for the future to remove remaining obstacles that hinder citizens from fully enjoying their rights as EU citizens.

Throughout the year 2013, Vice-President Reding and other EU Commissioners will also join forces with national and local politicians to hold debates with citizens all across Europe – to listen to them and answer their questions. Vice-President Reding has already held debates in Cadiz (Spain), Graz (Austria), Dublin (Ireland) and Berlin (Germany) and Commissioner Andor held a debate in Naples (Italy). Many more will be held throughout European municipalities in 2013 and will see European and local political decision makers engage in a debate with citizens from all walks of life across the whole EU discussing the impacts of the economic crisis, EU citizens' rights and the future of Europe. Follow all the debates here: http://ec.europa.eu/european-debate.

To prepare the ground for the European Year, the Commission held a broad public consultation between 9 May and 9 September 2012 asking citizens what problems they have encountered in exercising their rights as EU citizens (see IP/12/461). Respondents made clear that they are very attached to their EU rights – especially free movement and political rights. They would like to see a true European area in which they can live, work, move, study and shop without facing red tape or discrimination. But they also pointed out that there is still some way to go. They highlighted various problems, notably in getting EU rights respected at local level – issues which the Commission will be taking up in the next EU Citizenship Report, planned during 2013. See the results here: http://ec.europa.eu/justice/citizen/files/eu-citizen-brochure_en.pdf

For more information

Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner:

http://ec.europa.eu/reding

European Commission – EU Citizenship:

http://ec.europa.eu/justice/citizen

Eurobarometer – EU Citizenship:

http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/flash_arch_374_361_en.htm#365

European Year of Citizens:

http://europa.eu/citizens-2013

Debates with citizens on the Future of Europe:

http://ec.europa.eu/european-debate

Contacts :

Mina Andreeva (+32 2 299 13 82)

Natasha Bertaud (+32 2 296 74 56)

ANNEX

1. An increasing majority (81%) of citizens knows they are "EU citizens"

Evolution over the years:

2. …but only 36% knows which rights EU citizenship brings:

3. Right to complain to EU institutions and right to free movement are the most popular EU citizens' rights

4. A majority of EU citizens recognises the Economic Benefits of Free Movement within the European Union


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